On April 18th, President Biden signed an Executive Order on Increasing Access to High-Quality Care and Supporting Caregivers. The Executive Order does not immediately make any changes to child care. It is a sweeping list of directives to various federal departments to take action to improve access to care and support caregivers across the country.
We investigated what this might mean for Coloradans and child care in Colorado. While the order specifies actions for federal offices, we anticipate that many impacts will flow to the corresponding state departments through related funding streams, guidance, and reporting. Even in the absence of a specific directive, we urge Colorado state departments to consider similar actions to increase the availability and affordability of child care.
Child Care Professionals
There are approximately 23,000 child care workers in Colorado who are compensated $16.03 per hour on average. Nationwide, child care providers make less than 98% of other professions, and in Colorado, 15% live below the poverty line. Below are the many directives in the Executive Order that could impact Colorado’s child care professionals and industry:
|Directive supporting child care workforce||Federal Department||Corresponding State Department|
|Improve child care workers’ access to health insurance (HHS)||Health and Human Services (HHS)||Healthcare Policy and Finance (HCPF), Department of Early Childhood (CDEC)|
|Expand mental health support for the child care workforce (HHS)||HHS||Behavioral Health Administration (BHA), CDEC|
|Expand training pathways and professional learning opportunities for child care professionals||HHS, Education (ED), and Department of Labor (DOL)||Higher Education (CDHE), Education (CDE), CDEC, Labor and Employment (CDLE)|
|Publish best practices resources such as sample employment agreements for domestic child care workers, to ensure workers know their rights||DOL||CDLE|
|Work with community and local partners to expand culturally and linguistically appropriate community outreach and education efforts to child care workers||DOL||CDLE|
|Develop materials addressing the employment rights of non-citizen child care workers who are legally eligible to work||Equal Employment Opportunity Commission|
|Use AmeriCorps to encourage entrance into care jobs||AmeriCorps||Serve Colorado|
|Create innovative funding opportunities and demonstration projects for training and provide technical assistance to governments to improve the quality of care jobs||DOL, ED, HHS||CDLE, CDE, CDHS, CDEC|
|Conduct and publish an analysis of early childhood workers’ pay in comparison to the pay of other workers with similar levels of training and skill||DOL||CDLE, CDEC|
|Help states and localities conduct their own analyses of comparable pay rates for care workers||DOL||CDLE, CDEC|
Colorado is home to nearly 300 Head Start and Early Head Start programs across the state. These programs are managed locally and funded with Federal money. President Biden’s order directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to identify opportunities to increase compensation and benefits for Head Start staff and eliminate barriers to Head Start eligibility for families.
The Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) is administered by the Colorado Department of Early Childhood (CDEC) and funded by Federal money that comes from the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) and a state match. This program supports childcare costs for low-income families that are homeless, working, searching for work, or in school. According to the First Five Years Fund, about 11,000 children in Colorado are served by CCCAP, and 91% of eligible children are not served due to insufficient federal and state funding. In addition, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a general financial support source for low-income families and is sometimes used to support child care. President Biden’s order directs HHS to:
- Identify opportunities to eliminate barriers to eligibility for families
- Issue regulations to reduce child care costs for families, specifically looking at the family co-pay. Family co-pays in Colorado range from 1% to 25% of a family’s household income depending on income level and are sometimes waived for special circumstances. The Biden administration has consistently stated a goal of parental costs for child care being less than 7% of a family’s income.
- Issue policies that would support child care providers and update payment practices to improve provider stability and supply. As of April 20th, HHS sent a letter to CDEC informing them that they are considered out of compliance with the equal access provision of CCDF because subsidy payment rates are set below the 50th percentile of the most recent market rate survey (currently 25%).
- Encourage States to increase the use of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) for basic assistance including child care.
Child Care Owners/Operators
Most of the approximately 9,000 childcare centers and home-based providers in Colorado are small businesses, and their combined economic impact is approximately $1.7 billion. However, as EPIC and the Common Sense Institute identified in a 2022 report, the business model of child care is broken. The Executive Order directs the Treasury Department to provide information to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) to help increase access to capital for providers. It also directs the Small Business Administration to support care businesses with developing sustainable operations, and the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection to address practices of financial institutions that may harm the care sector.
Across all Federal agencies, Colorado has over 36,000 individuals employed by the Federal government. The Federal government oversees some child care facilities and provides financial assistance for their employees. These programs vary by department. The Executive Order could help increase access to child care for these Coloradans. It directs all federal agencies to support federal employees who need access to child care by reviewing policies and expanding employee access to federal child care centers, child care subsidies, and contracted care providers. In addition, the Order directs agencies to consider increasing income thresholds for childcare assistance that align with the increasing cost of care.
Earlier this year, the Commerce Department released a $50 billion funding opportunity for the “Chips for America” program. This funding invests in US-based semiconductor facility development. In a first-of-its-kind rule, the department will require companies seeking CHIPS Act awards of $150 million to guarantee affordable, high-quality child care for plant construction workers and operators including building child care centers, paying local providers, or providing subsidies to workers. The Biden Executive Order seeks to expand this requirement by requiring applicants for Federal job-creation or workforce development funds to provide affordable, accessible, safe, and reliable child care. The Executive Order also directs the Department of Labor and HHS to work with the Department of Commerce to issue guidance and technical assistance to support contractors and grantees with providing supportive services, including child care.
Rural and Tribal Communities
4.3 million Coloradans live in rural areas. The Executive Order identifies a few strategies specific to supporting these communities. Specifically, Biden directed the Department of Agriculture to issue guidance with HHS to promote opportunities to increase access to care in rural and Tribal communities.
There are 47,000 Active Duty and Reserve/National Guard members in Colorado, and the Department of Defense (DOD) has the nation’s largest employer-sponsored child care system. Still, this system has suffered the same workforce shortages as other providers. President Biden’s order directs the DOD to identify how they might improve the recruitment and retention of the Department’s child development program workers, improve affordability, and assess how child care costs impact the ability of the military to attract and retain its workers.
Several colleges in Colorado have CCAMPIS grants which help cover child care costs for their students with children. Colorado receives about $1 million per year from this federal funding source. The Executive Order directs the Education Department to encourage grantees to increase compensation and provide support services for early childhood educators.